Evaluating and using Information

Site: QMplus - The Online Learning Environment of Queen Mary University of London
Course: Find It! Use It! Reference It! QMUL Information Literacy Skills
Book: Evaluating and using Information
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Tuesday, 16 August 2022, 4:53 AM


This section explains how to use the information you find within your academic work.

1. Introduction

Effectively evaluating information is one of the key skills that we are encouraging you to develop in this module.

Let's start in a very general way by thinking about how different academic disciplines approach and use information.

  • Is there a single approach which can be used to evaluate information in all subjects?
  • Can certain information always be regarded as inherently unsuitable for academic study?
  • And can complex theories and ideas ever be simply expressed, or simple ideas ever become over-complicated because of poor writing?


Test your ability to evaluate information in this quiz. The first question is intended for all QMUL students; the other questions relate to specific subjects, but even if, for example, you're not a Chemistry student, have a go at answering Question 2 - we hope that the feedback we give will help you think more widely about the complex nature of information and its uses.

Why not discuss the matter with friends; you may find that people studying other subjects have a rather different take on the matter!

Need help or advice with anything on this page?  Contact the T&LS Team 

2. Being critical

Questions like "who", "what" and "why" are known as comprehension questions. This type of questions are important because they help clarify your understanding of what it is you’re reading and prompt you to make sure you’re using an appropriate academic source.

But to be critical when you’re using information, you’ll also need to ask yourself analytical questions and evaluative questions while you read.

Analytical questions help deepen your understanding of the key parts of a text and how they all fit together.

Examples of analytical questions include…

Pink question mark

        • What framework has the author chosen?
        • Why have they chosen this framework?
        • What method are they using and why?
        • Is their argument logically consistent?
        • Is all of the information correct?

Evaluative questions help you to think about the underlying validity of the claims in a text and their wider significance.

Examples of evaluative questions include…

Blue question mark

      • Is the information they cite the most relevant for understanding the topic?
      • Is the author’s framework the best way of interpreting the material?
      • How does the author’s framework/methods compare to those of other authors?
      • What are the implications of the their findings?
      • What can be learnt from this?

Analytical and evaluative questions prompt you to reflect on what you think about the topic you’re researching.

Getting into the habit of asking these questions while you read is an important part of using information critically.

And it will help you feel more ready to express your own ideas when it comes time for you to write!

Want to get into the habit of being critical at all stages of your reading? Use our Worksheet for Reading Critically.

Need help or advice with anything on this page?  Contact the T&LS Team 

2.1. Evaluation activity

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3. How do I know that I have found the information that I need?

There are some simple questions which you should always ask yourself when evaluating information:
    • Who?
    • What?
    • Why?
    • When? 
    • Relevant?

Turn over each of the cards below to find out more:

Check out this short animated introduction to evaluating information: it will help you memorise the five points mentioned above until they have become second nature.

Try the activity on the next page to put this into practice

Need help or advice with anything on this page?  Contact the T&LS Team 

4. Plagiarism introduction

Once you have gathered together a sufficient amount of information from sources that you judge to be reliable you then have to actually write your essay. 

Producing good quality academic writing is something that most people have to learn: critiquing the work of others, constructing a coherent and plausible argument and writing well are specific skills that are supported by our colleagues in the Academic Skills Team.

It is important that the coursework you produce reflects Queen Mary's core values: the scholarship of our staff and students is fundamentally underpinned by integrity and honesty. Plagiarism is a word that you may have heard of and feel scared by: understanding plagiarism will help you overcome these fears. 

Fully understanding what is - and what is not - plagiarism takes time. So let's get going...

Try this quiz to find out how much you already know about this important matter.

How did you do? Move on to the next page to learn much more about plagiarism and how to avoid it.

4.1. Plagiarism and how to avoid it

We have a short cartoon for you that introduces the basics of plagiarism.


  • When marking essays and coursework, academics at Queen Mary use powerful software called Turnitin to check that their students have not taken material from books, journals and other publications without due acknowledgement. Turnitin also checks to ensure that students have not plagiarised the work of other students or lifted material straight from the Internet.
  • Students who are caught plagiarising other people's work face penalties that could have far-reaching effects.

So plagiarism is a very serious matter; but don't avoid it simply out of fear of the disciplinary consequences; avoid it because you seek to produce the best quality academic work you possibly can.

Once you have grasped the principles of correct source use and the citation style recommended by your department (see the next section of this module for more on citation styles) you can feel confident that you are steering clear of plagiarism.

Try the activity on the next page to further test your understanding.

Need help or advice with anything on this page?  Contact the T&LS Team 

4.2. Plagiarism activity

Have a look at the text below and the three examples of student writing, which attempt to integrate the passages into their own work. 

      “The scientific text or what is often called academic prose is often presented on the monologic-dialogic continuum as a classic example of a monologic text. Some linguists, in analyzing and comparing language variations, take it as being at the extreme monological pole, with spoken interaction being the other, most “dialogic” one (Chafe 1982; Biber et al. 1999).”      
       “However, a more in-depth scrutiny of the nature of scientific writing will show that it is only partially monologic in character. In fact, the texts that scientists write contain many dialogic features: They address other people in the past, present and future, relate to them and correspond with them in different ways. Moreover, it may be argued that scientific creativity, with the fluid and open-ended process that characterizes it, is rooted in an ongoing scientific conversation (Beller 1999:2). Beller’s analysis of the history of the quantum revolution in 20th-century physics is based on the notion of “dialogical creativity.” According to her approach, “dialogical creativity is not an instantaneous “eureka” experience; it is rather a patiently sustained process of responsiveness and addressivity to the ideas of others, both actual and imagined” (ibid.: 6).” — Livnat, L. (2012) Dialogue, Science and Academic Writing. Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing.

See what each student has written below

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5. It's Quiz Time!

We've provided you with a lot of practical guidance in this section of the module that will improve your skills around using information effectively. Of course the more you apply the techniques outlined here the more you will improve: practice makes perfect.

See how much you can remember by trying out this quiz:

Need help or advice about anything on this page?  Contact the T&LS Team